4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 29, 2023
Sometimes as I reflect on the Scripture readings in preparing for a Homily, I really find it difficult. Some passages seem so profound, so deep, so important, that I feel overwhelmed. I wonder if anything I say is going to be too abstract or simplistic or superficial. That I will not be able to get to the full radical nature of a passage. The Beatitudes is definitely one of those passages.
As I was struggling this week, I noticed a tweet from a Pastor who was reflecting on the Beatitudes to preach this week. He said, “I spent 3 hours today trying to wrap my head around the Beatitudes for this coming Sunday and my brain is actual mush.” I saw several others like that. It made me feel better that I am not alone in struggling to preach on such a profound passage. In fact, the Beatitudes might be the most important teaching of Jesus. As I was struggling with how to preach on this passage I began to remember a movie I recently saw called Broker.
It is a Korean film by one of my favourite Directors. The film shows a number of misfit characters, each of them struggling in life. Each of them living without a family. One whose mother abandoned him as a baby and who spent his whole life hoping she would return for him. Another who was rejected by the mother of his young daughter and was not able to have contact with his daughter. A woman who was in poverty and so was working as a prostitute and felt forced to abandon a new born baby conceived by one of her customers. And a little 6 year old boy from an orphanage, who was abandoned and longed for a family, who snuck into their vehicle.
I will not get into the details of the movie, but at one point as they are out on this journey together, they gradually form a strange little family. One that none of them had ever had before. At a certain moment, the little boy turns to the baby who they were trying to abandon, and says, “thank you for being born.”
Then one by one they turn to each person in the group and say, “thank you for being born.” Maybe for the first time in their lives that they had someone who was thankful that they were born. It struck me that the Beatitudes are ultimately about how we are Blessed by a God who offers us a family and who speaks to our heart, “thank you for being born.”
The Beatitudes reveal the dream of God, for a world where no one is abandoned, where the life of each person is appreciated. It is not about spiritual giants who are impeccable spiritually and morally. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Those of us who have nothing spiritually to offer and everything to receive. Think of the prodigal son who says, “I am not worthy to be called your son.” Only to see for the first time all that he had in having a Father.
When you are poor in spirit, feel that you do not pray enough, do not pray well, you are still blessed. For God says, you are my beloved. When you are mourning, life seems sad and lonely, you are still blessed, for God says, you are my beloved. When you are meek and gentle, but seem to lose in life, you are still blessed, for God says, you are my beloved. When you see war and violence and division in our world, be a peacemaker, for you are blessed by God who says, you are my Beloved.
The Beatitudes are about God’s dream. It is not about being strong, successful, winning, earning God’s love. You are blessed, you are the beloved of God. God is trying to say to you “thank you for being born.” We are to live in such a way that no one is abandoned, that each person feels in our presence that they are beloved.
I want each of you to turn to the people on either side of you now and say to them, “thank you for being born.”
Living the Beatitudes is about being with others so that they feel that in their heart.
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 9, 2022
Who are you? How we answer that question is crucial to how we live our life.
When you are asked that question you might choose to tell the person about your career, your profession, your studies or about other things you do. You might tell the person about your achievements, ways you have succeeded, or other accomplishments.
More likely you will tell the person about your relationships, your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends.
How would Jesus answer that question? In the account of his being baptized by John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel, we hear a voice from heaven saying. “This is my Son, the Beloved.” Who was Jesus? He was a Beloved Son. This was perhaps the most important moment in the life of Jesus. In this identity we find the motivation, the inner drive of Jesus. All that he was and did is rooted in this intimate unity with the Father, this deep sense of being a Beloved Son.
Today in front of our altar is the Baptismal Font and Easter Candle. It is here this weekend for a practical reason, we have some children being baptized this afternoon. It is also timely in that today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This is a time for us to reflect on who we are in light of our baptism.
As we remember our own baptism, it is simply God saying to us, your are my beloved son or daughter.
Beloved. To be loved. How many are struggling in life because they have never felt that they were beloved.
This is the key to a healthy and life giving Catholic Faith. That you know yourself to be the beloved daughter or son of God. But, many of us struggle to believe this, we may know this theoretically, but find it difficult to know this in our heart. We feel we are not worthy, not good enough to be the beloved of God. It is for this reason that St. Paul says, “he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy,” It is the free unearned grace of God that we are now able to be a beloved daughter or son of God.
When parents bring children for baptism they are taking on the responsibility to raise them in the faith. This includes teaching them to pray, teaching them the basics of the faith. But, the most important way a parent carries out this responsibility is to love them in such a way that they can believe that they are loved by God. A theologian once said,
‘After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child’. You see, a child learns to love by being loved. You could say that a baby first comes to know the love of God when they first see their parent smiling down with love.
As Catholics today we are called to Evangelization, to share the Faith. We are to be Missionaries. The first step in being a good missionary is to know yourself to be the beloved of God. When we know that deep inside, then we want others to also know that they are loved by God.
Who around you needs to know that they are the beloved son or daughter of God? How can you be the person to help them to know that? A kind word. Offering forgiveness. A smile.
Does the way we speak and act reflect someone who is beloved by God? When Christians are condemning to hell rather than opening people’s hearts to recognize the love of God then there is a problem.
God did not save us and love us because of anything we did. We were not judged worthy for salvation. Jesus came to us not as a reward for good behaviour or right thinking. This is small minded thinking about God. Does God say, you act and think in this way or I will not love you?
So many experience broken relationships. A family member, a friend. They no longer speak with the other because of some misunderstanding or some hurt. Sometimes one does need to distance themselves from an abusive situation. But, sometimes it takes one side to reach out, to take the first step. That can be risky, since there is no guarantee that the other side will not reject the extended hand.
God is the one who took the first step with us. God reached out to us in Jesus. We simply need to accept the invitation to return into this relationship with God.
Baptism is the sacrament in which we were embraced into the love of God as a son or daughter of God. Deep down accept this love of God. Do not put yourself down, do not be afraid to joyfully be in the presence of God. Hear God speaking in your heart today, You are my Beloved.